What I Did in February; or, The Nightmare of Copy Editing

I came out of February having read three more books, written thousands of words, and with a new discovery about the trouble I have editing my work.

I’ve found myself going back and digging through my Twitter feed for notes on what I wrote in any given month. I finished up one short story, began an edit of the first story I finished in January, and started another story. Cross-referencing Twitter is dumb, so I’ve added another page to my progress tracking spreadsheet. That spreadsheet’s getting pretty fat, man. I’ve got lots of progress I want to track!

That old saying “Writers like having written” is hot, boiling garbage. I like writing, and I spent several blissful mornings in February drinking cold, black coffee and banging out a story. I sat down with a printed copy of my first draft, red pen in hand, only to find editing my own writing a chore beyond imagining. I’d rather have been writing something new. I’d rather have been anywhere but editing.

“Just finish one pass. Just one first edit, then you can start another story.”

This is the credo I lived by for over a week. But reasons not to edit my first draft kept surfacing. Somehow I made it through, though I’m still about halfway through a second pass. I blamed various interferences - a lack of good red pens, or discomfort in my computer chair when I sat down to edit. Just a string of shitty excuses to keep myself from doing the work I knew needed to be done.

I’ll need to find a way to weasel editing into my daily routine. Some system for editing, a clever way to trick myself into it. Maybe I edit for 20 minutes every evening. After buying some new red pens, of course.

What I Read

The Elements of Style by Strunk and White

So I’m what? 90% sure I’ve read this before? I’m certain it was required reading in one of my early journalism classes. Either way, the refresher was wonderful. This old bastard dates back to 1918, and the advice contained still feels fresh, nearly a century later. Strunk has no patience for sloppy writing, and I love that he calls poorly constructed sentences “indefensible”.

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin

It’s tempting to put the other marketing books I’m planning to read this year on hold until I’ve worked through Godin’s entire library. Permission Marketing was first published in 1999, and it shows its age when Godin writes about specific companies.

But the specifics don’t matter. He writes with self-effacing humor and a natural curiosity that makes discussion of dry case studies a true pleasure to read. I’ve read a couple of his other books (The Dip, All Marketers are Liars) and he’s never disappointed.

Persuasive Online Copywriting by Bryan Eisenberg, Jeffrey Eisenberg, and Lisa T. Davis

I’ve kind of been doing a “thing” with dated online marketing books. It wasn’t as enjoyable to read as Permission Marketing, but there’s a ton of good stuff about online copywriting: focus on benefits, measure conversions, keep your eye on the fucking ball. Your visitors don’t give a shit about you. They give a shit about what you can do for them.

How I Felt

February felt pretty good. I didn’t get as much writing done as I’d have liked (see that week spent copy editing) and I’ve discovered I dislike editing my work. This is almost certainly a “thing” for at least some set of writers, and I need to get over it. I plan to try a new system for editing in March, considering I’ve got a handful of first drafts under my belt now.

The first pass of my first story was painful, but productive. I cut out a lot of shit, removed tons of ideas that weren’t working and didn’t go anywhere, but I got bogged down in the second pass. It might be time for another, just to take what I have now, print it out again, and start over.

Then I’ll pass it off to Miss Lady for further editing, and that idea is terrifying. Writing a story is one thing, but letting someone else read what I’ve written? AIEEEEEEE!

I'm Tyler, and I blog about marketing, programming, writing, and things I'm working on.

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